As someone who has undergone IVF treatment and experienced infertility, I can attest to the significant impact that these experiences can have on our mental health and mindset. Infertility is not just a physical issue; it can also take a toll on our emotional well-being and our outlook on life.
For many couples, the process of undergoing fertility treatments can be long and arduous. It can involve multiple rounds of testing, appointments, injections, and procedures much like in my experience, whilst we try to remain optimistic in the quick success, it took as many of you will know if you have followed my story, 5 rounds before we saw any success. This process can be physically and emotionally draining, and it's essential to take care of our mental health throughout the process.
One of the most challenging aspects of infertility and IVF treatment is the uncertainty that comes with it. Couples who are struggling to conceive are often faced with a range of unknowns, including the underlying cause of infertility, the effectiveness of treatments, and the outcome of any procedures. This uncertainty can lead to feelings of anxiety, stress, and depression. I recall when we walked into our first appointment with our consultant having undergone a series of tests only to discover that we were one of the thousands of couples who face the same diagnosis of “ Unexplained Infertility”......whilst some may be relieved to hear this news and know there is nothing physically wrong with either one of you, for some like us this is a bit of a blow as your left reeling with no explanation of why you are faced with the path ahead of you to be able to have a family. Whilst no one wishes to have any underlying issue which is causing their fertility struggle, sometimes a diagnosis at least helps you with being able to understand why and to begin to mentally process that.
Another factor that can impact our mental health during infertility and IVF treatment is the social stigma associated with infertility. Many couples feel ashamed or embarrassed to talk about their struggles with infertility, which can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness. It's essential to seek support from friends, family, a mental health professional, or someone you feel comfortable talking and confiding in about how you feel, someone who can provide a safe and non-judgmental space to talk about our experiences and who understands what you are going through. It is my passion and something I am driven to try and change is to begin to remove this stigma of shame and embarrassment around the subject, normalise the way we talk about such topics and strive to make it less taboo. There is no shame in something you have little control over, if you think about the multiple of thousands of other health conditions people face daily that they cannot control or avoid, they don't carry the same stigma or shame so why should infertility? Sadly it is a fact and a commonality with modern living and how the modern world has impacted our abilities in so many ways to conceive naturally. This is why I am so passionate about education, sharing and normalising this topic. The more we talk about it, the more we know and the more we share knowledge on it, the more we can begin to ensure future generations will be aware of their options. Else I fear we face a world where scientific intervention becomes the normal and the standard way for people to have a family.
In addition to seeking support, it's also essential to develop a positive mindset when undergoing infertility and IVF treatment. This can involve reframing our thoughts and beliefs around our fertility struggles, focusing on what we can control, and cultivating a sense of hope and resilience. Take solace in other peoples stories of success, focus on the positives and not the negatives. For example, we can focus on the fact that we are taking action to address our infertility, that we are learning more about our bodies, and that we are growing closer as a couple through the process. We are seeing positive statistics around success, we are seeing success stories and we are seeing more people sharing their experiences to help others, including celebrities.
It's also essential to practise self-care during infertility and IVF treatment. This can involve taking breaks from treatments to focus on other aspects of our lives, such as hobbies, exercise, or spending time with loved ones. I would highly recommend this, as someone who started this journey and did my first 3 rounds in quick succession, i learnt the hard way that it was important to give myself the time both physically and mental to recover from each round of treatment i was putting my body through, to allow it heal from the losses, the time to lose the weight i had gained from all the hormone treatment. Get myself back to being me, I cannot explain how liberating this was. I walked into my 5th and final round of IVF in the best shape both physically and mentally I had probably been in 20 years. It's important to prioritise our mental health and well-being throughout the process to maintain a sense of balance and perspective.
It's also important to note that the impact of infertility and IVF treatment on mental health can extend beyond the individual or couple undergoing treatment. Family and friends can also play a role in providing support and understanding during this challenging time.
However, it's common for loved ones to struggle with knowing how to support someone who is undergoing infertility and IVF treatment. It can be helpful to have open and honest conversations with family and friends about what we need and how they can support us during this time. Be specific with how they can support you and what you need from them, being open and upfront believe it or not helps with our mental health too as it removes our anxiety around the subject when discussing it with our loved ones. Check out one of my other recent blogs for more on this subject.
It's important to acknowledge that not everyone may be supportive or understanding of our experiences. Infertility can be a sensitive and often misunderstood issue, and it's okay to set boundaries with those who are not able to provide the support we need. It's just impossible for some to understand or relate to you as they have never lived through it themselves and so they struggle with finding the right words to say and provide the comfort you may find yourself needing.
Infertility and IVF treatment can take a significant toll on our mental health and mindset. It's essential to seek support, develop a positive mindset, and practice self-care throughout the process to maintain our emotional well-being as I've said. This can involve seeking professional help, such as therapy or counselling, to address any underlying mental health concerns, such as anxiety or depression. It can also involve engaging in activities that bring us joy and a sense of purpose, such as volunteering or pursuing hobbies. These were some of the things that really helped me and partly how Rain 2 Rainbow was born.
Remember, you are not alone in this journey, and with the right support and mindset, you can overcome the challenges of infertility and start or expand your family. Don’t give up on that all important sense of hope. Remember, infertility is a medical condition, and it's important to take care of our emotional well-being just as we would with any other medical condition.
Here are some additional tips on how you can protect your mental health and mindset while undergoing infertility and IVF treatment:
- Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness can be a powerful tool for reducing stress and anxiety. Practising mindfulness techniques, such as meditation, breathing exercises, or yoga, can help us stay centred and grounded during this challenging time.Find a good professional in this space to help you find some and practise some tools to help with mindfulness……I can recommend a few if you need help here.
- Connect with others going through similar experiences: Joining a support group or connecting with others going through similar experiences can be a great source of comfort and validation. Knowing that we are not alone in our struggles can help us feel less isolated and more empowered. I’ve said this before many times but my inbox is always open for anyone who wants to chat as someone who understands how you will be feeling and what you are going through, who has lived it and breathed it.
- Focus on self-compassion: It's common to feel guilt, shame, or self-blame during infertility and IVF treatment. However, practising self-compassion can help us cultivate a more positive and supportive mindset. This can involve speaking to ourselves with kindness and understanding, and recognising that we are doing the best we can with the resources we have.
- Set realistic expectations: It's important to set realistic expectations for ourselves during infertility and IVF treatment. This can involve acknowledging that the process may be long and unpredictable, and that there may be setbacks along the way. Having realistic expectations can help us manage our emotions and avoid feeling discouraged or overwhelmed. Remain open minded, optimistic and try not to pin all your hopes on instant success.
- Prioritise communication with our partner: Infertility and IVF treatment can be a challenging time for couples, and it's essential to prioritise communication and teamwork. Making time to talk openly and honestly about our feelings, concerns, and hopes can help us feel more connected and supported.
- Find joy and purpose outside of infertility: While infertility and IVF treatment may be a significant part of our lives, it's important to maintain a sense of joy and purpose outside of this experience. This can involve pursuing hobbies, spending time with loved ones, or engaging in volunteer work or other forms of community involvement. Find something that makes you tick and makes you happy, that gives you focus on something other then the journey ahead of you.
By taking steps to protect our mental health and mindset during infertility and IVF treatment, we can not only improve our emotional well-being but also increase our chances of a successful outcome. Remember, infertility and IVF treatment are challenging experiences, but with the right mindset and support, we can navigate these challenges and come out stronger on the other side.